“We’re the outcasts, the kids that weren’t meant to be, but made it happen.” This is how Ghetts, aka Justin Clarke, describes himself and his fellow grime artists who spent years unsigned, building up a reputation and a loyal fan base on the circuit independently. By contrast, artists who make it overnight risk moving away from their core fans and values. When that happens, Ghetts maintains, success can be much harder to sustain. Ghetts, whom I had the great pleasure of interviewing during Advertising Week for our session ‘Rhymes and Reason: The Shared DNA of Storytelling’, puts his success and longevity (he started out as an MC in 2003) down to his authenticity.
There’s much that any person, brand or agency hoping to connect with people through creative work can learn from Ghetts. Here are a few creative lessons from one of British music’s finest:
Embrace the moment
Ghetts’ creative process is predicated on living and creating in the moment and drawing from the emotions he is experiencing at any one time. “You can’t premeditate it. The mood and the real time moment that you’re living can’t help but affect your stories,” he says. “The story is better because of the way we choose to build on the energy of the moment.”
Creatively blocked? Try life experience
Using your experiences and those of the people around you to inform your work helps keep what you create honest and engaging. Ghetts believes that the most important thing you can do as an artist is to talk to people: “Speaking about things that people experience connects you with people more.”
Catch the zeitgeist if you can
Ghetts, who wrote his track Rebel in response to the 2011 London riots, says the tune and the story can come together create a cultural moment. In his view, being part of what is going on with the audience and the world around you is crucial. “Before telling a story make sure you think about creating things from the perspective of the people,” he says.
Stay true to you
Building an audience that stays with you, that trusts you, and that is emotionally engaged with you is not easy and takes time. Maintaining that audience whilst growing and attracting new fans requires a sharp focus on your core values, according to Ghetts. He says: “If you are true to you and your fans and they want to hear you, then they will find you.”